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June 8, 2018

Hiding Treasures

by Mark Fulmer

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much." And she said, "Yes, for so much." But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

Acts 5:1-11 (https://pcpc.us1.list-manage.com/track/click?u=eba67192d3a27da52e93fefb8&id=d60548382d&e=82a9a8f891)

new every thought captive logonew every thought captive logo

The comma is the culprit. We place it there to give us a break, a moment to gather our rationalizations. We've grown so accustomed to the work of the little mark that we cringe in its absence. You see, the Scripture teaches that, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10). But very often, it seems, what we actually believe is, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but fear doesn't really mean fear." We tell ourselves that it means awe, or reverence, or high regard, or any number of things, but certainly not clear-eyed, unvarnished fear. "After all," we think, "how are we going to evangelize if the Bible says we're wise to fear God Almighty?"

When the evangelist physician Luke writes the account of Annanias and Sapphira, he mentions twice in short order that "great fear came upon all who heard." Not just fear, but great fear. And Luke was an articulate man. He knew all those other watered-down words. He could have let Theophilus off the hook. But make no mistake—fear gripped the early church. The disciples certainly remembered their storm-tossed fright. That fright melted into frightened wonder as the power of the Lord's word took the teeth from the wind and waves.

We are indeed wise to fear the Lord; but not because He is a capricious despot who may at any moment burst into rage or fling us away. We are wise to fear the Lord because in understanding more of God's fearsomeness, we recognize more fully His marvelous grace. As we contemplate the majesty and holiness and power of the sovereign Lord, we bow at His mercy and rejoice in His care. The God at whose name the demons tremble has invited us into His presence and enjoined us to call Him "Father."

So how do we think about John's words that, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18)? Perfect love does indeed cast out fear. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. And the fear of anything else is the beginning of folly. When we fear the rebuke of men or the loss of status or the unmasking of our true selves, we make much of everything unholy and denigrate the holiness of God Almighty. Jesus was very clear about this.

I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12: 4-7)

So as we grow up in the fullness of Christ, may we leave the calm repose of the misplaced comma and learn again the holy fear of The Lord.

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About the Author

Mark Fulmer
Elder
Park Cities Presbyterian Church

Mark Fulmer is an elder at Park Cities Presbyterian Church, and along with Steve Vanderhill, teaches the New Creations Sunday School class.

 

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God's Holy Fire from Heartlight

God's Holy Fire is a daily devotional about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Spirit-Warned

    [Paul and his traveling companions] looked up the local disciples [in Tyre] and stayed with them seven days. Their message to Paul, from insight given by the Spirit, was "Don't go to Jerusalem."

    Acts 21:4 MESSAGE

    Key Thought

    Okay, I admit this is confusing. Paul is convicted that he must go to Jerusalem. At the same time, he knows hardship awaits him. Now this warning from the Spirit: "Don't go to Jerusalem!" I don't know any way to understand this situation other than one of two ways. One, Paul is disobeying the Spirit when he goes to Jerusalem. Two, this message is more of the Spirit alerting him that grief and hardship await him if he goes to Jerusalem than it is the Spirit instructing him not to go. Here's the bottom line: Either way, God uses this trip to Jerusalem to deliver the collection from the Gentile churches and to get Paul to Rome, where the good news of Jesus needed to be heard and where Paul was determined to go. Somewhere in the confusion we all face in trying to follow the Spirit's lead, we have to trust that God will get us where we need to be and doing what we need to do to honor him fully (Romans 8:28, 38-39). The question is whether we are willing to invest ourselves fully and trust in the Spirit leading us no matter what the short-term consequences of our commitment may be.

    Today's Prayer

    Gracious Father in heaven, I trust that you will use the Holy Spirit to lead me where I need to be to do the work you want me to do. I ask, dear Father, that my life glorifies you no matter where your leading takes me or what your leading entails. My deepest prayer, Lord, is that I never, ever, outlive my love for you and my trust in you. In Jesus' name, I pray. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

  • Spirit Appointed

    [Paul, to the Ephesian elders at Miletus:] "Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood."

    Acts 20:28 NIV

    Key Thought

    Paul reminds the Ephesian elders of three heavenly truths about leaders:

    1. Leaders are to watch, feed, protect and care for (or shepherd) the people of God.
    2. The Holy Spirit is involved in putting leaders into their leadership role.
    3. Those who lead must always realize that those they lead (called "the flock" and "the church of God" in today's verse) never belong to them but to God, who purchased them at such a high cost.
    These truths give leaders a powerful and sobering reminder of their call as leaders and give followers a reminder to follow. For each of us, these truths give us a reminder of just how precious the church is to God!

    Today's Prayer

    Almighty God, please be at work in our churches today through the Holy Spirit's calling those you want and we desperately need in leadership roles in your church. I ask forgiveness, dear Father, for not valuing your church more highly, and I pledge to cherish it as you do. In Jesus' name, I offer these petitions and this commitment. Amen.


    Ⓒ 1996-2018 Heartlight, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in part or whole for commercial use without written consent. The Thoughts and Prayer for God's Holy Fire are written by Phil Ware.

    Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.

    Scripture quotations marked MESSAGE are taken from THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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